There are two powerful and enduring myths out there about book marketing that, spoiler alert, are both wrong:
- There was once a mystical era of book publishing where writers just wrote and magical book marketing elves took care of the rest.
- Writers need to do everything under the sun in order to market their books and make it a second full time job.
Writers have always needed to find ways to market themselves and their writing, and that was as true for Lord Byron as it is for you, the modern author. Everyone from Oscar Wilde to Mark Twain to Ernest Hemingway to Ayn Rand were among the best networkers and self-promoters of their day.
But you don’t have to do it all. In this post I’ll cover the one thing you really need to do and how to think about the rest of your approach.
The one must-have in book marketing
There is only one thing an author must do to market a book:
- Every author, published or unpublished, should have some sort of Googlable web presence so that when someone sees your work or hears about you they have a way to contact you.
Beyond that, as I alluded to in the opening, there’s sort of been a new expectation/conventional wisdom creeping up that the key to being a Good Hardworking Promoting Author is to blow out your blog, your Facebook page, your website, your Twitter feed, your Goodreads network, and better yet, all of the above and by the way you need to set up your own author tour and try to get some media appearances going we’d love it if you placed some articles and stories and where’s your book trailer oh also don’t quit your day job and don’t forget about your manuscript deadline and make sure the next book is incredible and amazing and could you spend some time with your family please?
The diminishing returns of trying to do it all
Needless to say: unless you were born with more hours in the day than the rest of us, doing everything is not possible.
Nor is doing everything productive! If you don’t have a passion for blogging it’s going to show. Readers will notice and your blog will remain obscure. Not a newsflash: obscure blogs don’t sell books.
No one should be blogging (or Tweeting or Facebooking or etc.) for the sake of blogging (or Tweeting or Facebooking or etc.).
It takes time to make a good blog, a good Twitter feed, a good Facebook page, a good book trailer, etc., and if you dilute your time and try to do everything, you might end up without a good anything.
Book marketing at its best
Instead: do what you’re best at. Don’t make yourself miserable doing what you think you should be doing, do what you enjoy doing. Utilize your time where it’s best spent:
- If you have a talent and passion for blogging: do that.
- If you enjoy Twitter and know the ins and outs: do that.
- If you like getting into the weeds of Facebook ads and A/B testing the best messaging: do that.
- If you are a great public speaker and love attending writers conferences: do that.
- If you are a terrific hobnobber and networker and are adept at weaving your way into influential circles: do that.
- If you have media connections and can utilize them: do that.
- If you love pounding the pavement and meeting with local bookstores to arrange signings and events: do that.
- If you are an amateur filmmaker on the side and have an idea for a killer book trailer: do that.
- If you think creatively and enjoy thinking of wacky events: do that.
- If you are fabulously wealthy and you want to drop books from an airplane with $100 bills attached: do that, and please make sure to stop by Brooklyn.
Mix and match as appropriate.
There’s no one way to promote a book, and if there were a surefire way to get a book to take off and become a bestseller I would patent it and sell it to you for seven trillion dollars. Know your strengths, utilize your time well, and remember that at the end of the day the whims of fate and word of mouth are more powerful than any marketer.
Do what you can in the time you have. Just be smart about it.
Here are some posts that might give you some ideas:
- 32 book marketing ideas
- How to make a good author website
- The definitive guide to SEO for authors
- A guide to social media for authors
- How to write good jacket copy
- 7 things to consider before hiring a career coach
- 10 marketing techniques that annoy potential readers
- The thing about self-promotion is that self-promotion sucks (But you have to do it anyway)
• Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
• For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: “The Book Hunters,” a colored illustration for Collier’s magazine by Gordon Grant